As recently as the 1930’s, only 68 percent of American homes had electricity. By the middle of the last century however, most Americans enjoyed well-lighted homes, and the light had started to spread outdoors as well. Initially, yards and gardens were lit purely for visibility and safety, but once decorative lighting became a reality, there was no turning back. Today exterior lighting provides an exciting way to protect, beautify, and showcase properties, both brand-new and historic.
Simply updating exterior lighting can enhance safety and provide renewed curb appeal for most properties. Technology advancements in low voltage, high-efficiency light-emitting diodes (LEDs) make it possible to actually increase lighting while creating dramatic nightscapes that are both functional and more cost effective. Ultra-efficient LEDs are eco-friendly, using only a fraction of the energy required by the mercury vapor lights used for decades. LEDs can save up to 75 percent in operating cost over other light sources, plus additional savings in maintenance costs thanks to their superior longevity.
Throwing Light on History
Lighting can easily set the mood for social and recreational events while extending the hours residents can safely enjoy outdoor areas. This concept was accidentally discovered in 1700 by King Louis XIV in Paris, The City of Light. The Sun King originally set out to beautify the parks, boulevards, and landscaping in and around Paris—but his urban renewal projects became a target for vandals. In response, Louis XIV implemented an elaborate security system that included 7,000 street lights.
The first reported widespread use of outdoor lights was to prevent property damage, and it worked extraordinarily well—with an interesting twist. King Louis’ innovation created an attractive environment for the city’s inhabitants. Instead of going home or to bed when the sun went down, the residents of Paris took to the streets and developed a nighttime social culture that included new industries and businesses. The classic Parisian street scene of bustling cafes, lively taverns, and chic night-spots would never have been possible had Louis not lit up the evening to protect his projects.
From Lamplight to Lightscaping
Lighting made the difference then and now. It is easy to imagine most condominium residents will be encouraged to enjoy their common areas—indeed, the entire property—more in the evenings when paths, decks, and recreation areas are attractively and safely lighted. Unique architecture, fountains, arbors, trellises, and water features are particularly beautiful when enhanced with lightscaping.